We’ve seen consumer drones of various sizes, as well as those with varying camera and photography capabilities, but what about when it comes to landing on surfaces other than the ground? Research students at Stanford University have been exploring that exact idea, and have developed a quadcopter that can perch on the ceiling, as well as walls in a vertical position, just like a spider or insect.
The drone achieves this with the use of a “tail” and “microspines,” which are small pads designed to work in similar way as a gecko’s limbs. When landing on a wall, the drone gently bumps into the surface with the tail, and then orients itself vertically.
Once the top of the drone makes contact with a surface, whether it’s the ceiling or a wall, the microspines attach and hold on by using friction, thanks to bumps in the texture on materials like stucco and cinderblock. See the quadcopter in action in the students’ video below:
The benefits of being able to land on non-level surfaces like this is the potential for drones to save battery power by not needing to hover in place for long periods. If a drone can still shoot video and take photos while perched on a wall or ceiling, it would allow the pilot to keep it in use for longer periods.
The students also imagine this being useful in situations where difficult weather makes flying impossible. The main limitation at this point is the drone’s difficulty in attaching to smooth surfaces like polished concrete, as there’s no holes or bumps for the microspines to grip to, but the plan is to experiment with adhesives to address this issue.
SOURCE IEEE Spectrum